Though few will be on hand to witness it, Georgetown men’s basketball will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday. The program will honor Jessie Sapp and Brian Jansen and thank them for their contributions to the program.

For the Class of 2009, this will be a bittersweet Saturday, the culmination of a regular season marked by disappointment and frustration. I think we can safely say that the players have felt that just as much as the fans.

This season may have been especially bittersweet for Sapp. Anointed at last as “the man” before the campaign even began, Jessie’s senior season has fallen well short of expectations. While some, including this writer, thought Sapp might lead his team into the NCAA tournament and play his way into NBA conversation, it appears that neither of those predictions will come to fruition.

But if you will allow me to shed my journalistic objectivity for a moment, I would like to take this opportunity to laud my classmate, the only player who was on the team for the entirety of my time on the Hilltop, and remind everyone what Jessie Sapp has meant to this program.

Jessie Sapp committed to play for Georgetown back in the winter of 2005. Georgetown was coming off of a sub-.500 season and headed for the NIT. There was little reason for him to believe in JT III or the Georgetown name, and yet he did.

Freshman year he picked his spots, was a solid contributor off the bench, made all the hustle plays. In March, he stood tall with his teammates as they fell in the Sweet Sixteen to Florida, even though he was dealing with an unspeakable family tragedy back home in Harlem – his little sister was shot in the jaw. She has since made a full recovery.

Jessie, as most fans on the Hilltop simply call him, stepped into the starting five as a sophomore and did so with aplomb. All he did was help guide Georgetown to its first Final Four in more than 20 years. Take a look at the pictures of the Hoyas celebrating in the Meadowlands, fresh off beating UNC in the Elite Eight, and you’ll find Sapp’s wide, toothy grin front and center. On a team that often seemed serious and business-like, Jessie could always be counted on for exuberance and excitement.

Last season, as Georgetown won its second-straight Big East regular season title, Sapp was at his best. Big shots against UConn, Syracuse and West Virginia. He shot 41 percent from three. If you can’t appreciate a guy who doubled his three-point shooting percentage in two years, you’re really missing out.

And Jessie Sapp has always been tough.

This season has admittedly been different. He has not taken that big step forward, has not displayed an NBA-ready skill set, has not taken the team to new heights. I don’t know what happened with Jessie and Chris Wright, don’t quite get why he lost his starting spot, and really have no idea how vocal a leader he was. When I finish this piece and put my journalist’s hat back on, I’ll try to find out.

But for 95 percent of his time on the court, and 100 percent off of it, Sapp has exemplified what it should mean to play basketball at Georgetown.

He has played happily for four years in an era when four-year players are stigmatized.

He led his team to the pinnacle of the sport.

He has lost his spot in the starting lineup with nary a public complaint.

Rather than keeping his distance from a student body that often fawns inappropriately over its basketball stars, he has befriended a wide swatch of his fellow students. He has built rapports with not just his teammates and coaches, but just about every athletic department employee, and in some cases, their families too.

He’s always willing to chat with a reporter.

Despite a childhood that he will acknowledge was not easy, in spite of a road to the Hilltop traveled by very few of his classmates, Sapp has excelled at one of the best schools in the country.

Jessie Sapp will almost certainly not make the NBA, not next year anyway, and his team’s odds of making the NCAA tournament are not much better. But when he takes the court on Saturday, I implore all of you, whether in the stands or at home, to rise in ovation.

It will be a long time before this campus sees anyone quite like Jessie Sapp.

Bailey Heaps is a senior in the College and a former senior sports editor and editor in chief for THE HOYA.

Jessie Sapp was featured in depth in The Hoya’s 2008-2009 basketball preview. Learn more about his road to the Hilltop here.

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